The Great Room at Hearst

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The Great Room at Hearst

I was able to get up through a somewhat secret door into the upper area of this room. It was a little sketchy up there with a sharp dropoff, so I had to keep my wits about me!

The greatest challenge at Hearst is getting set up, composing, and executing all the shots before the next wave of tourists come through. I was usually able to get this done, and there was always a gentle pressure to shoot fast and then move on! One time, however, I just could not finish in time.

They strode in and began randomly shooting away. I think it is so interesting (and somewhat depressing) to watch how tourists take pictures. Really, they are just “documenting” and “collecting”. Why? This is an interesting question! These people are not dumb or vapid… They are not doing it because everyone else is doing it. But I do think people like to softly record their lives. They do the best they can, and I guess that is okay. I do get flummoxed that people don’t go out of their way to take “better” pictures. They seem satisfied with lackluster, predictable, “scientific-documentary” shots that are just not interesting. Not that every photo has to be a work of art, but why not try a little? Why not do a few things here and there to improve your personal photography. It’s not that hard to improve, and anyone can improve! I suppose I just get bummed out that people don’t even try to improve… they just expect and then become satisfied with mediocrity.

Also at Hearst there is a “no flash” rule. Thank goodness! Of course, they do it to protect the works of art there, but I am happy that people do not use their flash because I normally see people do it in silly conditions. As far as I know, this “no flash” in Hearst Castle (and other museums) is a good policy. I always hear that flashes can damage paintings and whatnot — is this scientifically true? Maybe it is. I know if you leave art in bright light all day that it can become discolored… but are a bunch of instantaneous flashes the same thing? I don’t know… I’d love to see a full study on it if anyone has a link. As with all things, the policy certainly sounds solid, but I am skeptical about “common wisdom”.

Personally, I would institute a “no Dumb Use of Flash” rule, which would tell people not to use their flash to take photos of things that are over 15 feet away. Like, for example, did you see the opening ceremonies of the Olympics? Thousands and thousands of clueless people using their flashes! Aren’t any of those thousands of people somewhat curious — wondering if the flash actually does anything? Or maybe this mass flash-delusion is only negatively reinforced by seeing all the other flashes going off? I don’t know…. but it is interesting to think about.

  • A magnificent display – and worth the wait! Shotting many car and bike events I always struggle with other folks in the scene as well – add to that our taking multiple exposures….

    Hope you do get a Chance to browse around Clyde’s work – it is like hdr on steroids – no joking here -;0) Here is a quote from him on the big pics – he told me he will not move to digital until they come out wit a 220 meg per shot cam – hat is what it would take to get what he is doing now!

    CB: It may be just me, but I feel like the human brain is tickled by detail. The more detail the eye can see the more enjoyable it is for the brain. I wanted my images to be sharp at just about any size that I can conceive of doing. I wanted to tickle the brain of others…You can only do that with a piece of large film.

    I suppose I pushed the limit on that by photographing with a 12×20 camera and then enlarging that negative. (I built a 12×20 enlarger from an old copy camera from a printing shop) When I enlarge those images up to 5×8 feet you can see the insect holes in the blades of grass&now that is really tickling the brain!



  • casusan

    Oh wow! What a cool room – I don’t remember seeing this! Super Trey!

  • Ben

    Trey, of course, you might not know how a standard point-and-shoot digital camera works :), but I’m sure the reason you see all the flashes going off at a place like the Olympics is that the Auto-flash is on by default, and in a dark arena it will always flash. It takes effort to turn the flash off, so most people will not bother. I bet most of them were not consciously choosing to use the flash.

  • I reckon that the no-flash rule in places like museums is more about the flashes not temporarily blinding the security sensors and cameras, rather than any damage to artwork.

    I’d work with a no-flash rule any day, rather than a blanket no photography rule!

    Now, if they would just allow tripods…

  • Looks like a scene from Harry Potter! Good work as usual! On the other hand, this rant against “tourist” photographers is getting kind of sickening. The reason why most people don’t put in the effort to take better pictures is simply because they take pictures that are good enough for them and could care less about making “art.” Not everyone is a photo snob like you and me. Just like I could care less about how much horsepower my car has because I’m not into cars. As long as it gets me there, that’s good enough for me.

  • Facebook User

    Beautiful photo –
    I agree with the “no Dumb Use of Flash” rule.
    I am sure my wife is tired of me stating something similar. Don’t the folks in the stands realize they are only lighting the back of the heads at most 7-15 ft in front of them? 😀
    But as someone one stated – it does look cool.

  • Nice photo, Trey. I kind of agree with Deron on the photography of “us normal” folks. We do our best, but we actually are “documenting” our lives with these photos. Although I will walk around to get the best view of whatever I’m trying to capture when applicable. Hope you are in New Zealand having fun!!!

  • Nice shot, Trey, and interesting thoughts that I tend to agree with. Ben’s comment makes sense to me. Most people shoot on auto, which seems to apply flash universally for the majority of point-and-shoots. What’s more, I’d bet 95% of point-and-shoot users don’t know how to disable the flash on their camera.

  • Cheryl McGregor

    Two points:
    1. You haven’t seen flash until you’ve been at Niagara Falls at Night 🙂

    2. Most folks not only don’t get the opportunity to get the private tours and the secret areas you had a chance to get to, they are herded in a group with a time constraint and have to jocky with others to get any shot at all. So they try their best and click away hoping that they get something they can be happy with in the end.

  • Alex

    Totally know what you mean about the flashes! Another thing that bothers me is people using flashes to photograph things that are in glass cases… I was in DC a while ago and people were using their flashes on the Declaration of Independence in its glass case, all theyre going to get is a bright white bot on some glass!

    Thats a good point though, they allow flashes in the National Archives… this kinda suggests the no flash thing is rubbish, as if you can use your flash on the Constitution, then why not any other item? Its probably museums doing it because its one of those hammered in myths.

  • Hehe thanks all.

    Yes I figure that most people just have their cameras on Auto. That’s kind of unfortunate, I think – that people spend hundreds of dollars on it and don’t know how to turn off the flash. Maybe this is just me !

    Alex – yes – I think that it is hammered in myths – that’s a funny way to say it!

    John – Thanks for all the info on Clyde!

    Deron – hehe okay – I’ll take it easy on tourists… I’m sure you are okay! 🙂

  • I was thinking a thought the other day. About all these thousands of tiny pointy-shooty flashes going off in football stadiums and such places..
    Someone needs to sit down and do some math on that.
    IF, in theory, all those thousands of tiny flashes fire simultaneously, how many lux of light does that result in, fall-off taken into account, at the center of the stadium?

    In this rethorical situation, we’ll assume everything happens simultaneously.

    Also, if one person were to shoot without a flash, at the same time as everyone else shooting with theirs activated, will that maybe a tinsy bit affect his shutter speed? Would it constitute a gloriously huge soft light made up of thousands of tiny lights?

  • Facebook User

    From a photography stand point I know that the flashes are useless in the stadium, but if you think about it as an additional lighting effects. It is more like a bunch of strobe lights going off in the crowd that adds to the excitement and feel of the situation.

  • Andre

    Trey, once again you’ve let your condescending attitudes leak into your blog. But I, for one, genuinely appreciate your use of obscure vocabulary in your effort to prove your overwhelming intelligence. It’s truly charming.

  • I have been a big fan of yours since I started We produced the virtual tour found on the Hearst Castle website, along with the Hearst Castle virtual tour collection found here.
    I was happy to see a familiar room on your site and thought I would drop in and say hello.


  • I think more people know how to turn off their flash than most professional photographers give credit for. But as was mentioned, they don’t care. I too once thought “don’t they want a better picture”. But I am supposing that the light illuminating the action in stadiums is strong enough to give a decent or even great exposure with whatever aperture and shutter combination the cameras choose with the flash on. Also, those little cameras are darn smart, because they are designed to provide good pictures to people who don’t know how to use them. I’m just guessing that most, if not all have a little preflash to measure exposure, so the camera is going to get it right even though the flash is on in a seemingly absurd situation. Similar to the same way TTL works with flash units and DSLRs.

    Also, the National Archives HAD a policy against no flash since the 1950s. Since Feb 24 of this year however, they have banned ALL photography in the Rotunda because people don’t bother to turn off the flash. The NPR new story on that is here: And an article on the science of flash destroying the Declaration is here: But I don’t think it comes to any grand conclusions

    Love your work Trey, I always get sucked into it for way too long.

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